Since the emergence of the Adria Brothers (Ferran and Albert) and their restaurant El Bulli, Catalonia has become a kind of mecca for food lovers and cooks from all over the world. Catalan cuisine relies heavily on seasonal fresh market products—from mushrooms to vegetables to beef and fish— and its preparation is an art passed down through generations. Today, you can find all kinds of Catalan restaurants, from old-school kitchens that have been in Barcelona for decades to modern spots that mix traditional Catalan dishes with new recipes that challenge guests’ palates. Only in Barcelona can you taste the best fricandó (a tender meat in a delicious sauce) in the world, exceptional macarrons (pasta with a special cheese and finished in the oven) or the incredible canalons de l’avia—an old Catalan recipe traditionally cooked with the previous day's leftovers, which has evolved into a very sophisticated dish. Read on for my favorite Catalan restaurants in Barcelona.
Probably the best Catalan restaurant in the city, this Michelin-starred spot combines an elegant decor and a sublime menu (don’t miss the monkfish and the macarrons) with the ambience of being invited into a special home where every guest is treated with deference. Owner Carles Gaig is one of the most legendary cooks in town, and his fame is well deserved. Indulge in a grand finale for dessert: ask for the magnificent chocolate banana bread with a touch of whiskey.
This is the home of Nando Jubany, one of the brightest stars in a new generation of Catalan chefs. Jubany recently opened a restaurant in Singapore based entirely on the cuisine of his motherland. That said, the menu at this restaurant in Barcelona sometimes offers surprising twists on tradition—like the open omelet with goat cheese.
Tuset is home cooking at its best. Try the bacallà a la llauna (cod with beans, cooked to perfection with wine and spices) or the calçots (a seasonal onion) to understand the heart of this outstanding Catalan restaurant. They also have a wide range of small entrees, ideal for sharing. I recommend the salads—the tomato and prawns is excellent—and the anchovies.
My favorites at this classic restaurant, which never disappoint, are the salmon and monkfish carpaccio and the escalivada (a cold dish of roasted peppers and eggplant, with a touch of olive oil). L’olivé is a good choice for families—the service is excellent—and for lunch. If you go at midday, be sure to ask the waiter about their rice dishes.
This restaurant opened its doors in 1786—the first restaurant in Catalonia—and 228 years later, it’s still serving great Catalan food with the same enthusiasm. Ask for the pica-pica, a set of three dishes that includes mussels, prawns, squid, and all kinds of seafood. If you don’t feel like fish, go straight for the stewed wild boar or the mushroom mousse. They also have an incredible cellar stocked with the most outstanding Catalan wines: ask for a Montsant or Conca de Barberà.